What the Esports Industry Can Expect During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Pavo Jurkic

March 21, 2020

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coronavirus and esports

Novel coronavirus, commonly referred to as COVID-19 or simply coronavirus, has taken over Europe and is slowly making its way through the US, too. The world is in a state of global emergency, with stock markets dipping down, businesses all across the globe suffering massive losses and the global economy going through an unfathomable crisis.

All major sporting events have been canceled, including the EURO 2020, which was supposed to kick off in June. NBA, NHL, MLB, Champions League, and all top-tier soccer leagues on the old continent – they are all postponed and are awaiting the end of the whole coronavirus crisis.

Amidst the pandemic panic that the world is going through right now, professional gaming is trying to fill the void, providing fans with a ton of content readily available online. And we’re not just talking about popular streamers pitching in with more content than ever before, but also about highly-popular and lucrative esports events… Basically, the only competitive events that are in full flow in the coronavirus era.

Numerous Events Postponed Indefinitely

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t just end virtually all sporting events but stomped all major events, conventions and all sorts of public gatherings. The music festival industry is on its knees, too, with all concerts in the next few months postponed indefinitely.

E3 2020 has been canceled, as well. The same goes for the Eurovision, Cannes Lion Festival, Glastonbury Musical Festival and many more.

Sporting Events

As mentioned earlier, the pandemic shut down all sporting events all across the globe. 2020 will definitely go down in history books as the year in which some of the most iconic sports competitions didn’t have a proper champion. Everything from the Kentucky Derby and UFC fight nights to major league sports, and soccer’s entire European ecosystem – everything’s canceled. Everything but the Olympic Games, to be more precise.

Esports Events

The esports world is suffering from the coronavirus, too. Just because we’re talking about video games, doesn’t mean it’s immune to the coronavirus pandemic. You see, the esports industry is based on highly competitive online games. However, top-tier events aren’t played online; they are played offline/LAN mode, which brings forth several noteworthy gameplay improvements.

The biggest improvement lies in the so-called lag. More precisely, the lack thereof. In an online environment, players communicate with the game’s servers, and there will always be a short time period it takes for information to go from their computers to the servers and vice versa. We’re talking about milliseconds here, but milliseconds that can be all the difference, especially at the top level where skill difference is measured in nuances.

Here’s a list of all notable esports events that have been postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic:

  • League of Legends: LPL, LDL, LCK, LEC, and LCS have all been postponed, and the MSI has been moved to July.
  • Dota 2: ESL One Los Angeles and EPICENTER, both postponed indefinitely.
  • CS:GO: IEM Katowice was played behind closed doors, and Flashpoint and ESL PL moved to online gameplay.
  • Overwatch: Overwatch League postponed all March and April matches, canceled Midseason Tournament, and moved All-Star Weekend to the offseason.
  • Call of Duty: The Call of Duty League canceled all live events and will continue to play online.
  • Rocket League: On March 5, Psyonix canceled Rocket League Season 9 World Championship.
  • Rainbow Six: Rainbow Six Siege Pro League S11 Finals have been canceled, too.

Some of these esports competitions have already begun adjusting to the world with coronavirus, mixing up their schedules and formats, and moving everything online. CS:GO leagues, Flashpoint and ESL Pro League serve as perfect examples, all thanks to quick reactions and capable staff.

Can Esports Fill the Gaps?

Needless to say, sports fans are in for a world of boredom in the coming months. Their favorite sports have been canceled. Heck, all sports have been canceled, period. It’s a crazy world out there, one that has a massive void that desperately needs filling.

Esports to the rescue!

The competitive world of esports coupled with online streaming on popular gaming platforms such as Twitch, Facebook Live, and YouTube, definitely has the content quality needed to satisfy the masses.

There is only so much Netflix series you can watch… Depending on how long this situation keeps up, sooner or later, people will look for other forms of online entertainment besides Netflix and YouTube. Many will start exploring video games, and others, those who venture deep into the depths of Reddit, ought to get hooked on esports!

Online Betting is Non-Existent

Another industry that online esports events will definitely be of service is online betting. At the moment, online betting has come to a halt. Yes, other gambling types like online casinos, slots, and whatnot are still in business, with little to no impact from the coronavirus. Sports betting, however, is pretty much non-existent at this point.

Esports to the rescue, once again!

Whether we’re talking about Call of Duty League or the ongoing CS:GO leagues, Flashpoint and ESL Pro League, it’s safe to say esports is the most popular category in the world of online betting! Even before this coronavirus pandemic, esports betting was a highly popular pastime. Now, when we’re all panicking and buying way more toilet paper than we really need, and now that esports events are the only kids on the block, people ought to understand the true importance and potential of esports.

Gaming as a Method of Coping with Self-Isolation

There is no doubt people will start playing video games a lot more than usual. After all – what else are we supposed to do with this whole self-isolation and social-distancing thing? Just sit at home and play mobile games all day long, huh?

While that is a credible answer, especially if we take the rise of mobile battle royale games into account, proper PC or console gaming seems more like it. We already see the trends! For instance, Steam just broke the record for concurrent users which ought to be closely related to the number of people staying at home because of the pandemic.

Some reports suggest gaming activities jumped for amazing 75% last week, and that jump is only going to go further up as time goes on. Twitch viewership has increased by roughly 10% and YouTube gaming content is up 15%. The trends of growth are present everywhere, and the chances of them falling down are next to nothing.

Netflix and Fortnite to Blame for Surging Internet Traffic

As you already know, Italy is suffering through grave issues due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the whole country practically in one big quarantine. Everything is closed except for grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, hospitals, and similar services of crucial importance for day to day lives.

People are forced to stay home which led to a massive 70% increase in internet traffic. The CEO of Telcome Italia, Luigi Gubitosi, pointed out Fortnite as the culprit behind the country’s internet traffic spike. Other games were in the mix, too, but it seems as though none came close as Epic Game’s (still) highly popular battle royale.

Netflix agreed to reduce its streaming bit rates across the entirety of Europe. This move will significantly cut traffic on European soil. Hopefully, it will be enough to smoothen out the internet in Europe, whose traffic is at an all-time high because of the coronavirus pandemic forcing millions to stay in their homes.

All things considered, esports and video games might just be the ideal way for us to suffer through this coronavirus pandemic.

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